Nelson/Mellencamp/Dylan: Lake Elsinore, CA August 12, 2009
If you walk out my front door, hang a couple of left hand turns and drive five miles north on the valley floor you’ll hit Lake Elsinore, which was sizzling yesterday afternoon at close to a hundred degrees. The day before, the “Dylan Show” canceled an Arizona gig due to excessive heat, so we were thankful to be in line and waiting to get inside the stadium. It’s a beautiful minor league ballpark, home to the San Diego Padres’ Single A farm team The Storm,and they’ve just started booking concerts into the venue. We’re about an hour north of SD and two south of LA, so the crowd was mixed with hipsters and cowboys; locals and city folk. Not a sell out, but I’d say somewhere between 8-10,000 folks shelled out almost $75 per ticket. Fortunately, as we’re sandwiched between the ocean and desert, the cool winds started blowing after five and by sunset the thermometer had dropped almost twenty-five degrees.
I don’t find it much fun to write reviews, am not very eloquent in doing them nor am I a very good reporter, so I’ll just throw a couple of thoughts and observations your way.
-The Wiyos opened the show promptly at 5:30 when some folks were coming in the doors and many more were still navigating the freeways. Great harmonies, interesting set of old time blues and country, and really not suited for a baseball stadium. Would have loved this much more if I was sitting in a coffee shop or bar, but the Brooklyn boys offered up a fine set nevertheless.
-Willie…the band was loose and easy, followed him as best they could, and he pleased the crowd with about a dozen or so past hits and a couple new songs thrown in. Featured his sister on piano a few times and his son is just a smokin’ hot blues guitar player we need to hear more of. Basketball legend Bill Walton showed up, was led to a small VIP area at the start of the set and after about twenty minutes he got up and worked his weary body into the midst of the crowd that was bunched up against the stage. Reminded me of when he used to show up at Dead concerts.
-Mellencamp…my disclaimer here is that I don’t own any of his stuff, never been a fan and was hoping to be knocked out based on reading some recent press. I wasn’t. Simply can’t explain why he doesn’t move me because his songs are ok and his band is really tight, but it’s too polished, choreographed and steeped in the seventies “stadium rock” tradition for me. By the second song it felt like sitting through a root canal without novocaine. Admittedly the crowd responded much better to him than I did and more than a few left when he was done. If there was a highlight, T-Bone Burnett joined him on guitar for a song which was probably his best of the evening.
-Dylan….when they first hit the stage I thought that the entire band must have just fallen off of Willie’s bus ’cause I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a mess. The first two songs (here’s the set list) sounded out of step, but mercifully they finally locked into a groove sounding like an old time roadhouse blues band, which is pretty much what they are now. I’m one of those folks who believes that Dylan is one of our greatest songwriters and poets, but I’ve dropped in and out on him as far as being a musician/performer. Saw him several times in the early-mid seventies when he was brilliant, and in the eighties when he wasn’t. As much as I wanted to love him again last night, it just wasn’t that great for me. His voice is shot, his brief guitar work illustrated why he’s mostly playing keyboard and harp now, and I just didn’t find the reworking of his older repertoire that inspiring or dare I even say it…very good. So there…I’ve committed the ultimate sin of panning Bob and I think the never-ending tour can end just as soon as we all get the chance to buy a forty dollar commemorative t-shirt. Forgive me.